by Paula Bosse
Above, the WFAA studios, seen in a wonderful painting by Dallas artist Ed Bearden. The image is from a postcard touting the brand new ultra-modern building designed by one of Dallas’ top architects, the prolific George L. Dahl. The building still stands at Young and Record streets, next to the home of its then-sister-company, The Dallas Morning News (appropriately, the News building was also designed by Dahl … as was the soon-to-be HQ of The News, the old Dallas Public Library at Commerce and Harwood).
The super-cool mid-century “WFAA AM-FM-TV broadcasting plant” was completed in 1961. It opened to much fanfare in April of that year, with star-studded festivities featuring personal appearances by a host of ABC stars such as Connie Stevens, Johnny Crawford, and Nick Adams. If catching a glimpse of “Cricket” or the Rifleman’s son didn’t wow you, the public was also invited to tour the building and gawk at its state-of-the-art radio and television studios. This large 68,000-square-foot building allowed WFAA radio and WFAA-TV to be housed under the same roof. Before this, the AM and FM radio stations were broadcasting from studios atop the Santa Fe Building, and Channel 8 was broadcasting from their television studios on Harry Hines, at Wolf (studios which they sold to KERA at the end of 1959).
Aside from the innovative “folded-plate” concrete roof, one of the first things I noticed about this building was the staircase behind a “wall” of plate glass — I was instantly reminded of the staircase from the old Rogers Electric building (now Steinway Hall) on the Central Expressway service road at McCommas — all it needed was a gigantic ficus tree. (Unsurprisingly, that building — built in 1959 — was also designed by the very, very busy George Dahl.)
Cool building, cool architectural design, cool artistic rendering.
Below is an early pre-construction rendering of the WFAA building, from 1959.
And a photo from the early 1970s.
And here’s a view taken from the side of the building in 1963, looking toward Young Street.
The early-’70s photo above was taken from this ad from the 1974-75 Texas Almanac. Ah, “Communications Center.” (I have to say, I’ve never heard of “WFAA-FM Stereo 98” nor their slogan “The Velvet Sound of Beautiful Music.” In fact, by the time this edition of the Almanac was published, WFAA-FM no longer existed — it had changed both its name — to KZEW — and its format — to rock.)
Sources & Notes
Color postcard found on the entertaining blog Texas Pop Culture; see the post — which includes scans of the reverse side of the card — here.
Bearden’s signature is a bit hard to make out — the slightly distorted magnified signature can be seen here.
Photo of the Channel 8 news vehicles is from the Belo Records collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here.
Read more about the history of FM radio in Dallas — including histories of WFAA-FM and KZEW — at the indispensable website of local broadcasting history — DFW Retroplex, here.
Click pictures to see larger images.
Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.